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Rosie Frihart

  • Hosted by Children's Law Center of California
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Service location Los Angeles, California
  • Law school University of Southern California Gould School of Law
  • Issue area Children/Youth
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Rosie ensures foster youth who have developmental disabilities receive the state services to which they are entitled by acting as a legal advocate for those children and training other attorneys to do the same.

In California, individuals who have certain developmental disabilities are entitled to state-funded services through non-profits called “Regional Centers.” As a former educator, Rosie has witnessed firsthand the impact that appropriate services like those provided by Regional Centers can have for children and young adults. While foster youth are statistically more likely to have developmental disabilities than youth who are not court-involved, many do not receive the Regional Center services to which they are entitled. Foster youth require specialized legal advocacy to ensure they receive these crucial, life-long services.

Through her experiences as a teacher and as a law student, Rosie came to understand the unique barriers that prevent foster children from accessing appropriate services. Her Fellowship aims to break those barriers down.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the past year, Rosie has:

  • Advised child welfare attorneys, caregivers, and CASA advocates on how to best handle Regional Center matters in more than 150 cases
  • Consulted on issues as varied as eligibility, appropriate services, Regional Center service plans, termination of eligibility, and more
  • Provided full representation to eight clients on issues including eligibility for Regional Center services, receipts of appropriate services after an eligibility finding, and the reinstatement of terminated services
  • Provided four trainings to dependency attorneys and investigators, with nearly 300 attorneys and investigators attending
  • Advocated that a Regional Center increase the services a particular foster child was eligible to receive, which resulted in the Regional Center agreeing to quadruple the number of hours per month to which the child is entitled
  • Filed three eligibility appeals with the Office of Administrative Hearings, which will hopefully result in three foster children being found eligible for lifelong Regional Center services

Next Steps

In the next year, Rosie plans to:

  • Provide direct representation on 10-20 Regional Center eligibility or services issues
  • Continue training child welfare attorneys on how to best advocate for clients who have developmental disabilities within their child welfare cases
  • Create a guidebook for child welfare attorneys to advocate for their Regional Center-eligible clients
  • Create a legislative proposal to address a state regulation that prevents Regional Center-eligible adults from continuing to live with their former foster parents after their child welfare case ends

Foster children with developmental disabilities are perhaps our most vulnerable population. Not only do these children have developmental disabilities, but many have also suffered the trauma of abuse, neglect, and removal from the only home they have ever known.

Rosie Frihart /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Ashley Ortagus

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Sponsor: Greenberg Traurig, LLP, The Florida Bar Foundation

Lauren Zack

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Sponsor: Latham & Watkins LLP, Spotify